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09/23/2013 03:35 pm ET Updated Sep 23, 2013

Staggering Number Of Rhinos Killed In South Africa By Poachers

Nearly 700 rhinos have fallen victim to poaching-related incidents in South Africa. This is the highest figure on record in years, according to a newly released report.

The South African government said that 688 rhinos have been poached so far in 2013. There are still three months left in the year, but the number has already surpassed last year's total of 668 slain rhinos.

The Environmental Investigation Agency confirms the number of poaching deaths at 663 since January.

In the World Wildlife Fund's latest "Stop Wildlife Crime" series, released Sunday, experts discuss the "explosion" of rhino poaching in the nation. As WWF Senior Vice President Of Conservation Strategy and Science Ginette Hemley notes, South Africa has seen a 5,000 percent increase in rhino poaching since 2007.

The South African government's report also showed an increase in rhino poaching year-over-year since 2010.

Rhinos are targeted by poachers for their extremely valuable horns, which are used in some cultures to cure certain maladies. In Vietnam, for example, some believe that the rhino horn can used as a treatment for cancer.

On World Rhino Day Saturday, South Africa's Environmental Affairs Minister Edna Molewa pledged to protect rhinos from poachers.

"I can assure you that we will not allow rhino to become extinct on our watch," she said during the event, Times Live reports.

New episodes of "Stop Wildlife Crime" will premiere every Sunday in September at 7 p.m. ET.

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